Most Recent Links

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or subscribe to our mailing list, to receive news updates. Learn more.


Links 1 - 20 of 23642

Jon Hamilton When it comes to brain training, some workouts seem to work better than others. A comparison of the two most common training methods scientists use to improve memory and attention found that one was twice as effective as the other. The more effective method also changed brain activity in a part of the brain involved in high-level thinking. But neither method made anyone smarter, says Kara Blacker, the study's lead author and a researcher at The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine in Bethesda, Md. "Our hypothesis was that training might improve fluid intelligence or IQ," Blacker says. "But that's not what we found." Blacker did the memory research when she was part of a team at Johns Hopkins University and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. The results were reported in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. The team compared two approaches to improving working memory, which acts as a kind of mental workspace where we store information temporarily. "If somebody gives you directions, you have to keep that information in mind long enough to actually execute going to that location," Blacker says. "If someone tells you a phone number, you have to be able to remember it." To test different methods for improving working memory, the team had 136 young adults spend a month training their brains for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Johns Hopkins University YouTube One group did something called a "complex span" test, which involves remembering the location of an item despite distractions. A second group trained with something called the dual n-back test. Each day they would sit at a computer watching flashing squares appear on a grid and listening to a voice reading letters from the alphabet. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Attention
Link ID: 24231 - Posted: 10.23.2017

By JANE E. BRODY I will start this column with its conclusion: Riding a bicycle without wearing a properly fitted helmet is simply stupid. Anyone who does so is tempting fate, risking a potentially life-changing disaster. And that goes for all users of bike-share programs, like New York’s Citi Bike, who think nothing of pulling a bike from its station and cycling helmetless on streets, with and without bike lanes, among often reckless traffic on foot and wheels. Even a careful cyclist is likely to crash about once every 4,500 miles and, based on personal observation, many city cyclists are anything but careful. Although reliable details are lacking on bike share accidents in New York or elsewhere, one shattering statistic reported by New York City for cyclists in general stands out: 97 percent of cycling deaths and 87 percent of serious injuries occurred to people who were not wearing helmets. Head injuries account for three-fourths of the nearly 700-plus bicycle deaths that occur each year nationwide, and helmets can prevent or reduce the severity of these injuries in two-thirds of cases, according to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Va. This protection holds even in crashes with motor vehicles, researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle reported as long ago as 2000, a statistic verified many times since. I’ve been a cyclist for more than 70 years, most of them before anyone thought about wearing a helmet (protective helmets for recreational cyclists didn’t even exist until 1975). Although I’ve owned many helmets in the last four decades, I admit to occasionally not wearing one to avoid “helmet hair” before an evening out. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24230 - Posted: 10.23.2017

By William Wan For more than a decade, Kristin Page-Nei begged Montana lawmakers to raise cigarette prices. As a health advocate for the American Cancer Society, she watched year after year as other states increased their cigarette taxes and lowered their smoking rates. “What they’re doing is saving lives,” she kept saying. Finally, this spring, she helped persuade state senators to raise cigarette taxes for the first time in 12 years. Then came the tobacco lobbyists. Bankrolled by the country’s two biggest cigarette companies, they swarmed the halls of the state capitol, wined and dined Republican leaders, launched a sophisticated call-in campaign, and coached witnesses for hearings. The tobacco companies poured more than $200,000 into Montana, a state with barely 1 million residents. It took them just one week to kill the bill — from the time it passed the state Senate to its last gasps in a state House committee. The tobacco lobby was so effective that, in the end, eight of the bill’s original co-sponsors voted against it. “It was incredible. Just brutal,” Page-Nei said. “I’d never seen this amount of money being poured into a session in my 17 years here.” Health experts agree that raising taxes is the most effective way to reduce tobacco use. The U.S. surgeon general, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all concluded that raising taxes helps large numbers of smokers to quit and have loudly advocated doing so. © 1996-2017 The Washington Post

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24229 - Posted: 10.23.2017

By ALISSA J. RUBIN PARIS — When a fledgling alternative press published Gabrielle Deydier’s plaintive memoir of growing up fat in France, there was little expectation that the book would attract much notice. Frenchwomen are among the thinnest in Europe, high fashion is big business, and obesity isn’t often discussed. “To be fat in France is to be a loser,” Ms. Deydier said. So no one, least of all Ms. Deydier, expected “On Ne Naît Pas Grosse” (“One Is Not Born Fat”) to become a media sensation. Using her life as a case in point, bolstered by scientific studies, Ms. Deydier exposes in 150 pages the many ways the obese in France face censure, as well as frequent insensitivity from the medical profession. Soon, the 330-pound author was being interviewed by a broad range of news outlets. The coverage provoked a public reaction, and a variety of comments, including empathy and offers of support for those who are overweight, but also statements denigrating them. Some people complained Ms. Deydier was trying to normalize obesity. “To be close to someone obese in a train or a plane haunts me,” Mathieu B. wrote in a comment on Le Monde’s website. “It’s like being close to someone who smells bad. One has a very bad journey, that’s a fact.” In short, Ms. Deydier had touched a nerve. Her small publisher, which ran a limited first printing, has ordered a second. “A book like this had not been done,” said Clara Tellier Savary, Ms. Deydier’s publisher at Éditions Goutte d’Or. “For an obese person to be aware of all the issues and step back is very rare.” Unlike in the United States, where TV regularly features programs urging viewers to take a positive view of their bodies and where a plus-size clothing industry is booming, celebrating one’s girth is almost unheard-of in France. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24228 - Posted: 10.21.2017

By Aylin Woodward Not in my backyard. Territorial songbirds in New Zealand reacted more aggressively towards males encroaching on their territory if those rivals sang more complicated songs. The tui birds perceived these snappy singers as greater territorial threats than their simpler singing counterparts. Birdsong has two main functions: defending a territory and attracting a mate, says Samuel Hill at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. For tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae), territory defence is a key concern. “There are flowering and fruiting trees year round in New Zealand, so the tui always have resources to defend,” says Hill. This explains why “they natter all year round”. Warbling away takes lots of energy, so males may be showing off their physical endurance to females. Long and complicated songs may also be a sign of skill, as to sing them birds must use superfast vocal muscles to control rapid acoustic changes. In other songbirds, like zebra finches, females prefer males that sing harder songs. This hasn’t been tested in tui, but Hill says the complexity of a male’s song is probably a proxy for more relevant measures of his quality, like body condition and cognitive ability. If that is so, Hill reasoned, breeding male tui would take umbrage at potential rivals singing at the edge of their territory, particularly if their songs were complex and they were therefore strong competitors. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Animal Communication
Link ID: 24227 - Posted: 10.21.2017

By R. Douglas Fields BERLIN—Society’s embrace of cannabis to treat nausea, pain and other conditions proceeds apace with the drive to legalize the plant for recreational use. Pot’s seemingly innocuous side effects have helped clear a path toward making it a legal cash crop, with all of the marketing glitz brought to other consumer products. But that clean bill of health only goes so far. Marijuana’s potentially detrimental impact on the developing brains of adolescents remains a key focus of research—particularly because of the possibility teenage users could go on to face a higher risk of psychosis. New findings may fuel those worries. At the World Psychiatric Association’s World Congress in Berlin on October 9, Hannelore Ehrenreich of the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine presented results of a study of 1,200 people with schizophrenia. The investigation analyzed a wide range of genetic and environmental risk factors for developing the debilitating mental illness. The results—being submitted for publication—show people who had consumed cannabis before age 18 developed schizophrenia approximately 10 years earlier than others. The higher the frequency of use, the data indicated, the earlier the age of schizophrenia onset. In her study neither alcohol use nor genetics predicted an earlier time of inception, but pot did. “Cannabis use during puberty is a major risk factor for schizophrenia,” Ehrenreich says. Other studies, although not all, support the thrust of Ehrenreich’s findings. “There is no doubt,” concludes Robin Murray, a professor of psychiatry at King’s College London, that cannabis use in young people increases the risk of developing schizophrenia as an adult. Speaking at the Berlin conference, Murray—one of the first scientists to research pot’s link to the disorder—cited 10 studies that found a significant risk of young cannabis users developing psychosis. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Schizophrenia; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24226 - Posted: 10.21.2017

By Aggie Mika Kat Rose of Lakewood, Colorado, started smoking cigarettes when she was 12 years old. Ultimately, it was the smell that drove her to want to ditch the habit. “Constantly, my son was like, ‘Mom, you stink,’” she says. But quitting had been a struggle for Rose, a 30-year-old who works for a metal manufacturing company. She’s allergic to latex and cinnamon (common ingredients in nicotine patches and gum), and prescriptions like Chantix made her sick. Thanks to electronic vaporizers that emit a flavored—coconut cream pie, in Rose’s case—smoke-like cloud, “I haven’t smoked in two years,” she says. E-cigarettes and vaporizers, devices that turn liquid concoctions into inhalable vapor, have been touted as a panacea for smokers struggling to ditch the habit. These tobacco-less substitutes mimic what it’s like to smoke conventional cigarettes but, according to some experts within the scientific community and the tobacco industry alike, they carry a fraction of the health burden and can serve as an aid for quitting tobacco cigarettes. But researchers agree these products are not without health risks, despite messaging by some vapor product companies. One now-banned ad by a U.K.-based e-cigarette company, for example, boasted “Love your lungs”—and was censored by the Advertising Standards Authority for painting the products as healthy. In reality, scientists are just beginning to study the effects of these vapor products on humans and whether replacing traditional cigarettes with electronic versions makes a difference. Last month at the European Respiratory Society’s International Congress in Milan, Italy, independent research teams presented the results of their investigations into claims of e-cigarette safety and their efficacy as smoking cessation tools, revealing these smoking substitutes are not exactly benign. © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24225 - Posted: 10.21.2017

Emma Young Every dog owner is familiar with the ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression. As the inner brow lifts, the eyes get bigger and bigger … It’s tempting to interpret this as a plea from a sad dog for a scrap of the family dinner. Now, a small study provides support for the idea that dogs do indeed produce facial expressions to communicate with people — although perhaps just to engage us, rather than to manipulate us. The dogs in the study produced more than twice as many facial expressions (‘puppy dog eyes’ was one of the most common) when a researcher was facing them than when she was turned away. But it didn't seem to matter whether she also held food. Earlier studies have shown that seeing food is more exciting to a dog than is social contact with a silent person, so something other than the dogs’ emotional state must have been responsible for the effect. “Dogs make their eyes more attractive to us while we are watching, not just when we are in the vicinity or in response to food,” says Brian Hare, a cognitive neuroscientist and co-director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. “This is fantastic work.” The study, published on 19 October in Scientific Reports1, adds to a growing body of work that shows how sensitive dogs are to human attention. It also provides the first evidence in a non-primate species that facial expressions can be used actively to communicate, says psychologist Juliane Kaminski at the Dog Cognition Centre at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. Researchers had previously assumed that such expressions are an involuntary reflection of an animal’s emotional state. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Emotions; Attention
Link ID: 24224 - Posted: 10.20.2017

By BENEDICT CAREY In just the past few years, researchers have identified what they believe is an adult version of attention deficit disorder: a restless inability to concentrate that develops spontaneously after high school, years after the syndrome typically shows itself, and without any early signs. The proposed diagnosis — called adult-onset A.D.H.D. and potentially applicable to millions of people in their late teens or older — is distinct from the usual adult variety, in which symptoms linger from childhood. Yet a new study suggests that adult-onset A.D.H.D. is rare — if it exists at all. The paper, published Friday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, could deepen the debate over these symptoms rather than settle it. Previously, three large analyses had estimated the prevalence of the disorder at 3 to 10 percent of adults. The new study, while smaller, mined more extensive medical histories than earlier work and found that most apparent cases of adult-onset attention deficits are likely the result of substance abuse or mood problems. “This study carefully considered whether each person met criteria for A.D.H.D. and also fully considered other disorders” that might better explain the symptoms, said Mary Solanto, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. “In all those respects, it is the most thorough study we have looking at this issue.” Dr. Solanto said the study all but ruled out adult-onset A.D.H.D. as a stand-alone diagnosis. Other experts cautioned that it was too early to say definitively, and noted that attention deficits often precede mood and substance abuse problems — which in turn can mask the condition. The new analysis drew on data from a decades-long study of childhood A.D.H.D. that had tracked youngsters from age 9 or 10 up through early adulthood, gathering detailed histories from multiple sources, including doctors and parents. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: ADHD
Link ID: 24223 - Posted: 10.20.2017

By Amina Zafar, CBC News The soothing power of touch eases both physical pain and the sting of hurt feelings, say researchers — a finding that may be increasingly important in our social-media-driven world. When someone hurts an arm, they may brace and rub it to make it feel better. In the past 20 years, scientists have discovered that our hairy skin has cells that respond to a stroking touch. It's a trait we share with other mammals. Now psychologists in England say their work shows, for the first time, that a gentle touch can be a buffer against social rejection, too. In an experiment described in this week's issue of Scientific Reports, researchers recruited 84 healthy women and told them they were going to play a game of Cyberball, an online ball-tossing game. What the women didn't know was that their "opponents" were computer-generated avatars. Participants were told they could throw to anyone they wished, and they believed everyone would play fairly. When participants reported feeling excluded by the other "players," receiving a slow-paced stroke reduced hurt feelings from the perceived rudeness compared with a faster stroke. The study builds on previous ones showing that receiving touch from loved ones after a physical injury is supportive. "In our lab, it's tiny in effect, but the fact that it is significantly, systematically so across many participants is important," said the study's senior author, Katerina Fotopoulou, an associate professor of psychology at University College London ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24222 - Posted: 10.20.2017

By Helen Thomson THE most detailed study ever of brain activity during orgasm has discovered why climaxing makes women feel less pain, and shown that “switching off” isn’t necessary. Nan Wise at Rutgers University, New Jersey, and her colleagues recruited 10 women to lie in a functional MRI scanner and stimulate themselves to orgasm. They then repeated the experiment but had the volunteers’ partners stimulate them. The team was able to follow brain activity in 20-second intervals to see what happens just before, during and after orgasm. Back in 1985, Wise’s colleagues Beverly Whipple and Barry Komisaruk, both at Rutgers, discovered that during self-stimulation and orgasm, women’s ability to withstand painful finger squeezing increased by 75 per cent, and the level of squeezing at which women noticed the pain more than doubled. Now Wise’s team has explained why. At the point of orgasm, the brain’s dorsal raphe nucleus area becomes more active. This region plays a role in controlling the release of serotonin, which can act as an analgesic, dampening the sensation of pain. Her team also saw a burst of activity in the nucleus cuneiformis, which is a part of systems thought to help us control pain through thought alone. “Together, this activity – at least in part – seems to account for the pain attenuating effect of the female orgasm,” says Wise. It’s not yet clear why pain sensation decreases during orgasm, or if men experience the same phenomenon. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Attention
Link ID: 24221 - Posted: 10.20.2017

Aimee Cunningham To guard against the dangers of concussions, by 2014, all 50 states and the District of Columbia had enacted laws to protect young athletes. More than 2½ years after these laws went on the books, repeat concussions began to decline among high school athletes, researchers report online October 19 in the American Journal of Public Health. Researchers reviewed concussion data from 2005 to 2016 collected in an online system for sports injuries from a nationally representative sample of U.S. high schools. An estimated nearly 2.7 million reported concussions occurred during that time — an annual average of 39.8 concussions per 100,000 times a player hit the field for practice or games — among athletes in nine sports: football, basketball, soccer, baseball or wrestling for boys, and basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball for girls. Overall, the rate of new and recurrent concussions was climbing before the implementation of traumatic brain injury laws and continued to rise immediately after. But then, 2.6 years after the laws went into effect, the rate of recurrent concussions dropped roughly 10 percent, the authors say. New concussions showed a slight downturn beginning 3.8 years post-law. Most of the new laws require education on symptoms and signs of concussions for athletes, coaches and parents. So greater awareness of symptoms rather than an actual uptick in injuries may be behind the initial increase in reported concussions in the post-statute period. And the drop in recurrent concussions may be due to the laws’ provisions that take athletes off the field after a concussion and keep them off until approved by a medical provider. While the trends suggest that laws are having an impact, the researchers say, measures that focus on preventing concussions — not only taking steps after they happen — are needed. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 24220 - Posted: 10.20.2017

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Here’s yet another reason to protect young athletes from head trauma: A large-scale new study found that concussions in adolescents can increase the risk of later developing multiple sclerosis. The risk of multiple sclerosis, or M.S., an autoimmune nervous system disorder with an unknown cause, was especially high if there were more than one head injury. The overall chances that a young athlete who has had one or more head injuries will develop multiple sclerosis still remain low, the study’s authors point out. But the risk is significantly higher than if a young person never experiences a serious blow to the head. The drumbeat of worrying news about concussions and their consequences has been rising in recent years, as most of us know, especially if we have children who play contact sports. Much of this concern has centered on possible links between repeated concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a serious, degenerative brain disease that affects the ability to think. But there have been hints that head trauma might also be linked to the development of other conditions, including multiple sclerosis. Past studies with animals have shown that trauma to the central nervous system, including the brain, may jump-start the kind of autoimmune reactions that underlie multiple sclerosis. (In the disease, the body’s immune system begins to attack the fatty sheaths that enwrap and protect nerve fibers, leaving them vulnerable to damage and scarring.) © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Multiple Sclerosis
Link ID: 24219 - Posted: 10.19.2017

Expensive medicines can seem to create worse side-effects than cheaper alternatives, suggests a new study that looked at the "nocebo" effect of drugs. The opposite of the placebo effect — perceived improvement when no active medicine is given — nocebo is the perception of negative side-effects from a benign "medication" in a blind trial. These findings about nocebo effects could help improve the design of clinical trials that test new medications, said Dr. Luana Colloca, who wrote a journal commentary about the study. "The main information for patients is that they should be aware that sometimes our brain … reacts as a result of our beliefs and expectations," said Colloca, a pain researcher at University of Maryland School of Nursing. fMRI Researchers used a functional MRI scanner to identify areas along the spinal cord that became activated during the nocebo effect. (Alexandra Tinnermann and Tim Dretzler/University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf) The study, published recently in the journal Science, focused on the pain perceptions of patients who were treated with creams they believed had anti-itch properties but actually contained no active ingredients. Researchers in Germany studied 49 people, randomly assigning some to receive a "cheap" cream and others to receive an "expensive" cream. Those in the expensive group received cream packaged in a colourful box labelled Solestan Creme. The others received cream packaged in a drab box labelled with the more generic sounding name Imotadil-LeniPharma Creme. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 24218 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Daisy Grewal Despite its importance for health and well-being, many American adults find it difficult to consistently get enough sleep. Approximately 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep disturbances are particularly common in older adults and involve a variety of problems including difficulties falling or staying asleep, interrupted breathing, and restless leg syndrome. A person’s racial background can influence their likelihood of developing a sleep disorder, with a greater number of African Americans reporting sleep disturbances compared to White Americans. Beyond its effects on health, not getting enough sleep can lead to car accidents, medical errors, or other mistakes on the job. To encourage better sleep, the medical community encourages adults to engage in good “sleep hygiene” such as limiting or avoiding caffeine and nicotine, avoiding naps during the day, turning off electronics an hour before bed, exercising, and practicing relaxation before bedtime. It is also well-known that mental health is closely linked to sleep; insomnia is more common in people suffering from depression or anxiety. A recent study now raises the possibility that sleep could be affected by the degree to which someone feels like their life is purposeful or meaningful. Arlener Turner, Christine Smith, and Jason Ong of the Northwestern University School of Medicine found that people who reported having a greater sense of purpose in life also reported getting better sleep – even when taking into consideration age, gender, race, and level of education. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Sleep; Attention
Link ID: 24217 - Posted: 10.19.2017

Amy Maxmen For the first time, researchers have cured the deadly neurological disease sleeping sickness using pills instead of a combination of intravenous infusions and pills. The investigators presented the results from final clinical trials on 17 October at the European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health in Antwerp, Belgium, providing hope that the treatment will help to eliminate the malady within a decade. The oral therapy — called fexinidazole — cured 91% of people with severe sleeping sickness, compared with 98% who were treated with the combination therapy. It also cured 99% of people in an early stage of the disease who would typically undergo a spinal tap, to determine whether they needed infusions. The relative ease of the treatment with fexinidazole means that if approved, it might save more lives than the current option, say the investigators leading the phase 3 trial, the final phase of testing before the drug goes to regulators for approval. Sleeping sickness is endemic to Africa and generally infects extremely poor people who live in remote regions. The sick often suffer from the disease for years before seeking treatment, causing them and those caring for them to miss work and spend their savings on traditional medicines. Trekking to a hospital and remaining there for intravenous infusions is costly as well. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 24216 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By NICHOLAS BAKALAR Lack of sleep may raise the risk for gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes — abnormally high blood sugar that develops during pregnancy — can lead to excessive birth weight, preterm birth or respiratory distress in the baby, among other problems. It can also increase the mother’s risk for Type 2 diabetes later in life. Researchers pooled data from eight studies involving 17,595 women. Seven of the studies depended on self-reports of sleep, and one measured sleep duration. After adjusting for variables such as age, body mass index and ethnicity, they found that women who slept less than 6.25 hours a night were almost three times as likely to have gestational diabetes as those who slept more. The study is in Sleep Medicine Reviews. The reasons for the link are not known, but the authors suggest that hormonal changes in pregnancy as well as systematic inflammation tied to lack of sleep can lead to insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels. But the study is observational and does not prove a causal relationship between poor sleep and gestational diabetes. “Minimizing sleep disruption is important — limiting caffeine, avoiding electronics at bedtime and so on,” said the lead author, Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “It’s another factor that may influence overall health. But it’s easier said than done.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Sleep; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 24215 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Karen Weintraub Each time health care workers grab a pint of blood for an emergency transfusion, they make sure the donor and recipient have compatible blood types. But they do not pay attention to the donor’s sex. A new study raises questions as to whether that should change. In the first large study to look at how blood transfusions from previously pregnant women affect recipients’ health, researchers discovered men under 50 were 1.5 times more likely to die in the three years following a transfusion if they received a red blood cell transfusion from a woman donor who had ever been pregnant. This amounts to a 2 percent increase in overall mortality each year. Female recipients, however, did not appear to face an elevated risk. The study of more than 42,000 transfusion patients in the Netherlands was published Tuesday in JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association. The American Red Cross and the researchers themselves were quick to say the study is not definitive enough to change the current practice of matching red blood cell donors to recipients. But if this explosive finding is confirmed with future studies, it could transform the way blood is matched—and it would suggest millions of transfusion patients worldwide have died prematurely. “If this turns out to be the truth, it’s both biologically interesting and extremely clinically relevant,” says Gustaf Edgren, an expert who was not involved in the study but co-wrote an editorial about it. “We certainly need to find out what’s going on.” Edgren, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Karolinska Institute and a hematologist at Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm, says his own research suggests the donor’s sex makes no difference to the transfused patient. “Our data is really not compatible with this finding,” he says. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24214 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Alice Klein A protein injection that decreases appetite helps obese monkeys to slim down fast and cuts their risk of diabetes. Excitement is growing about a protein called GDF15, which naturally regulates body weight in humans and animals. When extra amounts are injected into mice, they eat less, lose weight and have fewer signs of diabetes. Several research teams have tried developing GDF15 as an obesity treatment, but it breaks down too quickly in the bloodstream to work. Now a team led by Murielle Véniant at pharmaceutical company Amgen has found a way to make GDF15 last longer in the body. The team added an antibody fragment onto GDF15. Antibodies are immune proteins that help recognise foreign molecules in the body. They found that this hybrid protein caused obese monkeys to eat about 40 per cent less. When given weekly injections, the monkeys lost 10 per cent of their body weight over 6 weeks. Their glucose tolerance also improved, making them less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. In comparison, the five obesity medications that are currently approved by the FDA for long-term weight management help patients to lose an average of 7 to 12 per cent of their body weight over the course of a year. Bariatric surgery – the gold standard for weight loss – usually results in 20 to 30 per cent weight loss in obese patients in the first year, but is expensive and can have complications and side-effects. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Obesity
Link ID: 24213 - Posted: 10.19.2017

By Virginia Morell Many wild bees prefer flowers in the violet-blue range—in part because these blossoms tend to produce high volumes of nectar. But it’s not easy for plants to produce blue flowers. Instead, a new study shows that many have evolved “blue halos” to allure bees, nanoscale structures on their petals that produce a blue glow when light hits them. The blue halo is created by tiny, irregular striations—usually lined up in parallel fashion—and is found in all major groups of flowering plants pollinated by insects, the scientists report today in Nature. They made their find by using scanning electron microscopy to examine every type of angiosperm—or flowering plant—including grasses, herbaceous plants, shrubs, and trees. The size and spacing of the nanoscale structures vary greatly, yet they all generate a blue or ultraviolet (UV) scattering effect particularly noticeable to bees, which have enhanced photoreceptor activity in the blue-UV parts of the spectrum. The scientists tested this attraction by exposing bumble bees to artificial flowers with three surfaces: smooth, iridescent, and striated to produce the blue halo. Despite the color of the flower, the bees preferred those with the blue halo. For us humans, the blue halo effect is most visible on flowers with dark pigments (like the South African Ursinia speciosa above), but not on lighter colored blooms. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Vision
Link ID: 24212 - Posted: 10.19.2017